Amplification-free SERS analysis of DNA mutation in cancer cells with single-base sensitivity†
Accurate and sensitive identification of DNA mutations in tumor cells is critical to the diagnosis, prognosis and personalized therapy of cancer. Conventional polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods are limited by the complicated amplification process. Herein, an amplification-free surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) approach which directly detects point mutations in cancer cells has been proposed. A highly sensitive and uniform SERS substrate was fabricated using gold@silver core–shell nanorods, achieving an enhancement factor of 1.85 × 106. By combining the SERS-active nanosubstrate with molecular beacon probes, the limit of detection reached as low as 50 fM. To enable parallel analysis and automated operation, the SERS sensor was integrated into a microfluidic chip. This novel chip-based assay was able to differentiate between mutated and wild-type KRAS genes among a variety of other nucleic acids from cancer cells in 40 min. Owing to the simple operation and fast analysis, the SERS-based DNA assay chip could potentially provide insights into clinical cancer theranostics in an easy and inexpensive manner at the point of care.